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The NEA Big Read Celebrates Homegoing and Nana Akua Goes to School

September & October 2023

Hartford Public Library (HPL) is one of 62 organizations nationwide selected to receive a 2023-2024 NEA Big Read grant. The grant will support a community reading program focusing on Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. The Big Read programming series will kick off with an author event with Yaa Gyasi at the 5th Annual Hartford Book Festival on Saturday, September 23, 2023.

As an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the power of a shared reading experience.






by Yaa Gyasi 

International Bestseller | Winer of the National Book Critics Circle’s Jon Leonard Prize | Winer of the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction

One of Oprah’s Best Books of the Year, Homegoing follows the parallel paths of sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.

Nana Akua Goes to School 
by Tricia Elam Walker

Winner of the 2021 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award!

In this moving story that celebrates cultural diversity, a shy girl brings her West African grandmother–whose face bears traditional tribal markings–to meet her classmates. This is a perfect read for back to school!






------------------LIST OF EVENTS------------------

Adult Programing - Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Tuesday, September 19, 4:00 - 5:30 pm, Park St Library @ the Lyric
NEA Big Read Book Launch/Discussion

Everyone will get a free goodie bag with a copy of the Big Read book, and an introduction to the book (theme, plot, characters, history) will be provided by the librarian. The community will be invited to read the book and participate in systemwide programming.

Saturday, September 23, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm, Classical Magnet School
Yaa Gyasi Author Talk at Hartford Book Festival

There will be a 45-minute discussion with the author and a 15-minute Q&A at 11:00am, a book signing immediately following at 12:00pm. Seats are limited.

Tuesday, September 26, 2:00 - 4:00 pm, Barbour Branch
African Jewelry Making with Jackie Bright 

Come make a Ghana jewelry piece with Jackie to celebrate the book, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.  Free copies of the title will be given to participants and general story themes will be discussed.

Thursday, September 28, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm, Dwight Branch
Book Discussion & Family Tree

We will create our own family tree and discuss how Each chapter of Homegoing follows a different descendant of Maame. While the novel ends after 14 chapters and seven generations. We must endeavor to know our history, the history of our families, and that of our ancestors as a means to understand who we are.

Saturday, October 7, 10:30 - 11:30 am, Albany Branch
African Dance Workshop

Masem Enyong leads a fun and energetic class where students get to explore a fusion of traditional West African moves and sounds and contemporary Afro beats. She has been teaching West African dance and creative movement to K-12 students and adults for over a decade. Her unique style of fusing traditional with contemporary Afro beat sounds and moves fills the room with laughter and fun energy. “You don't just leave my class with fun and sometimes new moves—you leave with a sense of love, hope, peace, culture and unity." -Masem Enyong

Saturday, October 7, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm, Ancient Burying Ground

Uncovering Their History at Ancient Burying Ground – Walking Tour

Learn about the efforts of the Ancient Burying Ground Association (ABGA) to research and remember the African and African-American people of colonial Hartford. Coordinator Christine Jewell will discuss ABGA’s research projects that give us insight into the past, sharing stories about the sheriff Neptune, “nightwalkers,” and families who fought to stay together. Much of this information is from the award-winning website Uncovering Their History.

Wednesday, October 11, 4:30 - 5:30 pm, Camp Field Branch
Community Conversation

A NEA Big Read Shared Experience, join us in a community-wide reading program at the Camp Field Branch. The program will include a conversation about the book’s various themes, characters, and perspectives to inspire new discoveries and community connections. Create a rock painting representing your heritage. Enjoy a sampling of sweet potato bread.

Monday, October 16, 6:00 - 8:00 pm, Park St Library @ the Lyric
The Role Music Played for Black Culture, Slavery to Present - Panel Discussion

A community conversation with HPL and Haneef Nelson on "The Important Role Music Played for Black Culture from Slavery to Present''

Using some theme from the book to discuss music and resilience in Black culture past to present.

Wednesday, October 18, 5:00 - 6:30 pm, Albany Branch
Taste and Sounds of Ghana

Join us for a cultural exploration as we learn to make the traditional Ghanaian snack Poloo and groove to the vibrant sounds of popular Ghanaian tunes. It's a delightful event that brings literature, flavors, and music together to celebrate the heritage of 'Homegoing'."

Thursday, October 19, 4:00 - 5:00 pm, Rawson Branch
Adult Book Discussion w/tea

Coffee or tea provided for book discussion. We will then explore the libraries tools, like, that can help us discover and chart our own family trees.

Tuesday, October 24, 5:30 - 6:30 pm, Robkins Branch
Genealogy Workshop by Sandra Taitt-Eady

An experienced and engaging history educator, researcher, genealogist, heritage presenter and public speaker who loves people. Learn about genealogy and how to get started researching. "I help others discover that history, heritage, language, and cultural education help us successfully navigate society and enhance our personal lives." Sandra Taitt-Eady

Thursday, October 26, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm, Robkins Branch
Book Discussion & Crafts

Look closer at the history and meaning behind the colors and patterns of Kente cloth and wax print fabrics, along with the production processes. We’ll be making necklaces using wax print fabrics.


Youth Programing -  Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker

Tuesday, September 26, 10:30 - 11:30 am, Albany Branch
Storytime and Crafts Featuring Akindra Symbols

Children will use DIY stamps with Akindra symbols on it that they can print onto pieces of cloth they can keep. We will discuss what Akindra symbols are and have desciptions of what the different symbols mean.

Tuesday, September 26, 4:00 - 5:00 pm, Dwight Branch
Storytime and Crafts

Storytime and brief discussion of the story including the idea of traditions that help create unique identities of peoples of the world. Related craft activity based on Adinkra symbols and their meanings. 

Wednesday, September 27, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm, Barbour Branch
Storytime and Crafts

Children will draw symbols onto bookmarks to use with the book. “Quilt” making craft with sheets of paper that kids will glue together and create their own Adinkra symbols on.

Wednesday, September 27, 4:30 - 5:30 pm, Bushnell Park Pavilion
Adinkra Fabric Stamping

Learn about the history of the traditional Adinkra cloth a hand-printed fabric designed by the Asante people in Ghana.

Wednesday, October 11, 4:00 - 5:00 pm, South Church
Family Treasures and Storytime

Learn about family traditions in the book and share your own. Explore Adrinka symbols and their meaning and make your own Adrinka print cloth bag.

Thursday, October 12, 3:30 - 4:30 pm, Park St Library @ the Lyric
Storytime, Discussion and Crafts

Craft activity making quilt squares and discussion about family traditions. Teen craft, introduction of “waist beads” and what this tradition represents in today’s culture.

Monday, October 16, 4:00 – 5:00 pm, Robkins Branch
Storytime and Crafts

Learn about family traditions in the book and share your own. Then explore Adrinka symbols and their meaning and make your own print art.

Tuesday, October 17, 4:00 - 5:00 pm, Camp Field Branch
Create Family Treasures

learn about family traditions in the book and share your own. Explore Adrinka symbols and their meaning and make your own Adrinka print cloth bag.

Tuesday, October 17, 4:00 - 5:00 pm, Rawson Branch
Storytime and Crafts

Students will examine the art from the book and Adinkra symbols. Then they draw self or family portraits using the art style from the book